I've held off actually saying too much about the whole UAE-port management deal, as I had a hunch that there was a hell of a lot more -- and less -- to the story than was floating around. And I think I've got a grasp on a few of the more salient points.
My first reaction was, like many, outrage. The idea of a foreign nation -- especially a Muslim one -- running our ports struck me as insanely stupid, bordering on suicidal.
Then more and more details emerged. First, the ports in question were already being managed by a foreign company. What was going on was the English management company was being bought by a UAE company.
Second, it was strictly a management deal. They would not be owning the ports, or handling the security. This was a change at the very top, with the day-to-day, hands-on work would most likely not be affected.
Third, the UAE has been a pretty good ally of ours. They've got a few black marks -- for one, they were one of the few nations to give official recognition to the Taliban -- but they've been host to our troops on leave, our warships have been refueled and replenished in their ports, and so on.
Fourth, it appears that no US company was interested in taking over the port management. It's a far better example of "foreigners doing the work Americans don't want to" than the illegal-alien argument.
After I heard a few details, I felt a little better about the deal. I dismissed the security concerns, saying that the UAE wouldn't be running security. The docks themselves would continue to be run by the Mob, and I wasn't concerned about their ability to affect THAT. Little did I know how significant that wisecrack was.
So, just what was behind this explosion? What are the bigger issues behind it? And what have we learned about it?
First, the Bush administration has demonstrated a remarkable "tin ear" on matters that cut to the quick of their base. They demonstrated this with the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court, and this is another example. They SHOULD have realized this could have been a huge deal, and gotten ahead of it instead of ceding the initiative.
Second, the Bush administration overplayed its hand when it threatened to veto Congressional intervention in the deal. A softer approach would have been smarter, and threatening a veto (a power Bush has not used once in over five years) is almost laughable.
Third, the Democrats can get away with murder. If one were to put the howlings and rantings of such notables as Senators Clinton, Schumer, and the like into the mouths of conservatives, they'd be labelled as reactionary, protectionist, America-First paranoids alongside Pat Buchanan and his ilk. But instead, conservatives found themselves uncomfortably agreeing with these folks, and didn't look deeply enough into just what was behind it.
It took a few days, but the main actor behind the scenes might have overplayed its hand, and come to the forefront. I hit on it earlier in the week, but didn't realize it at the time.
Could this all have been a ploy by the Teamsters? Could this have been a huge PR ploy aimed at intimidating the new port management company, who they feared would be tougher to negotiate with?
Considering that it was largely Democratic politicians who first started raising a stink, and the unions are one of the most powerful constituents of the Democrats, I think it's a distinct possibility. And considering that China took over managing several US ports under Senator Clinton's husband's administration, I find it a bit hard to believe in her sincerity.
But simply because the Democrats and unions are opposed to a deal, does that mean it's bad? No. It's a good indicator, but not conclusive.
I've been a bit troubled by one element, and that's that the Democrats tend, as a national party, to not take the War on Terror seriously. In this case, though, they're making that THE deciding issue, and that discrepancy bothered me. That's very out of character for them. They don't usually work the big picture.
And thanks to Dafydd Ab Hugh, my suspicions were confirmed.
To sum up: right now the biggest concern we ought to have right now is Iran's headlong rush to acquire nuclear weapons. And the UAE sits right on the Strait of Hormuz, the chokepoint of the Persian Gulf. Keeping very close ties with the UAE is critical. And Dubai Ports World has a very good record of managing ports.
So I think that the potential risks in letting DPW take over managing six of our ports are minimal, while the benefits to be gained are tremendous. I can even get over being on the same side of the issue as Jimmy Carter.
But any time Hillary Clinton, Pat Buchanan, and Big Labor are all agreeing on an issue, I think that's almost enough to sway my opinion to the opposite.